Sunday, 25 January 2015

Private Eye

Anyone interested in winter climbing would agree that the past week has been the first decent week in a while to get out.  More than decent, all these storms have brought loads of cool crags into primo condition.  The turfy crags of the North West have been receiving some attention such as: Cul Mor, Slioch, The Fiddlers Nose, Beinn Bahn…and I’ve lost track where Andy Nesbit has been.  Last Thursday Iain and I added Fuar Tholl to the list.

An Ruadh - Stac, Maol Chean -Dearg and Beinn Alligin 

Anyway, I started my week off with doing the plumb chimney line of Kami Kazi (VI,7) on Beinn Eighe with Uisdean last  Sunday.  A quick short easy day was what we both needed.  Having climbed a lot of Far East Walls in both seasons, I have always wanted to do Kami Kazi as it is one of the original winter routes on that cliff.  Go and do it if you haven’t.

Uisdean following pitch 1

Myself following pitch 2

Wednesday was another stunning.  After much anguish during Tuesday trying to find a last minute climbing partner for Wednesday, I binned the idea.  In retrospect I’m glad I wasn’t out winter climbing.  Instead I went bouldering with Mhairi at Tom Riach.  That boulder beats any winter crag.  Its not scary, catches the sun and most of all, I can actually feel the holds with my hands. 

You can't beat a bit of conglomerate bouldering!

However on Thursday, I was back playing the winter game.  Iain suggested that we went to Fuar Tholl and climb on its impressive Manreachan buttress.  There is a rock climb there called ‘Private Eye’ which is graded Scottish VS.  So basically, it could be anything.  Iain made the suggestion that we had a look at that.  Private Eye was first climbed in 1974 by Boyson, Braithwaite and Nunn; a strong team I believe.  Some words and phases from the guide book include: ‘awkward moves’, ‘difficult and wet’ and ‘steep loose wall’.  Perfect I thought, I can’t wait!`

Iain during the walk in.

Myself psyched to see the crag in such good condition (Iain Small)

Inspecting the crag and line in the morning, I noticed that the first pitch had Iain’s name written all over it.  So I thought he better have a look rather than me.  This pitch involved some extreme walking, some nice steep climbing in a groove which topped out onto big sloping ledges with crap snow, ice and no gear.

Grade 8 walking
Having not done huge amounts of mixed climbing on the turfy Torridonian sandstone, I did have ‘the fear’ a wee bit.  Especially since we were new routing on it. So I quested off up what we thought was the second pitch in search of this ‘cave belay’ the guide talks about.  I never found it.  I followed my nose towards this big icy groove feature out left which seemed quite attractive.  

Myself starting up pitch 2
Whilst belaying Iain up, part of me wished I carried on and just ran the rope out.  However, I had used a fair amount of gear and had one quickdraw left.  That would be a bit stupid I thought, or am I just weak?  I don’t know.  Anyway, Iain led on though. Arriving at his belay, we both agreed it was quite ‘involved’.  If I had lead on that would have been a bit stupid!  The night was creeping in, but I managed to top out just before I needed my head torch.  The final pitch was the perfect way to finish after 3 hard pitches.  The hooks, gear and turf just kept on coming! 

Iain using a knee.

A satisfying top pitch

So I mentioned that we planned to look at ‘Private Eye’.  Studying the guidebook and topo’s back at home, we think we were more to the left of the summer line.  It’s very hard to tell as the description we felt was a bit vague.  Whatever we did was a superb.  Overeall th route we felt was VIII, 8 with the first 3 pitchs all providing some tricky climbing.

Godzilla IX,8 on Beinn Bhan.  That was a bit unexpected!  I’m sure some of you are aware Andy, Iain and I did that yesterday by seeing my updated Flickr.  I am in the process of writing something, but right now I have ground to a halt.  My brain wants sleep!  So I’ll post something soon. 

I dont do cold belays (Iain Small)

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